“Humanity is currently at war with the Shadow World,” the guest lecturer explained .
Desir nodded along as the memories of his past life raced through his mind . Shadow World . A calamity that occurred every year . The greatest threat humanity had ever come in direct contact with .
The lecturer continued, “it is the characteristic of the Shadow World to continuously encroach on the real world . Encroached land will become surrounded by a dark fog . To date, no human has survived stepping foot into those lands .
“A devoured land becomes unable to sustain human civilization . The Tower of Magic has come to refer to this phenomenon as ‘Shadowfication . ’ We fight against the Shadow World to stop this process .
“We have been fighting the Shadow World for a long time, but the majority of our efforts have been marred with failure . Humanity has experienced defeat again and again, and much of our land has become Shadowfied . Less than half our continent’s original mass remains in our control . ”
Desir grimaced as he remembered the future yet to come . ‘Humanity will continue to experience defeat . ’ He looked around, noticing that students around the lecture hall were beginning to fall asleep . He chuckled silently . It meant, after all…
The lecturer continued, unaware or unfazed . “Of course, this story must seem unbelievable to all of you . Currently, 99 . 9% of all Shadow World instances are handled successfully, so all of this talk of how dangerous Shadow World instances were in the past must seem quite boring to all of you . ”
The guest lecturer from the Tower of Magic stopped momentarily and caught his breath . He looked around the room, gauging the students’ reactions, before resuming . “However, we must all keep in mind that not even a half-century has passed since we gained this overwhelming advantage against the Shadow World . ”
48 years . That’s how long it had been since humanity finally managed to improve their success rate above 60% . In other words, humanity was able to steal the momentum against the Shadow World .
“An ongoing debate exists within academia regarding what truly lead to this change . Some academics may identify 3 key reasons, while another might point to 5 . However, all academics are in agreement on one particular factor .
“We became capable of using magic crystals . All academics agree that this discovery represented a turning point that ultimately lead to our current success against the Shadow Worlds . ”
Magic crystal . Mana condensed into a crystallized form . Magic crystals could be earned by clearing the Shadow World instances . Prior to 48 years ago, magic crystals had been disregarded as worthless, but that had been the strange consequence of their composition, which was based on their creation .
“Magic crystals are largely divided into two parts; the ‘exterior mana’ and the ‘interior mana . ’ The ‘exterior mana’ is, as the name implies, an exterior covering, of solid, crystallized mana . Underneath the hard exterior is a flowing liquid interior: the ‘interior mana . ’”
The exterior mana’s crystallized state rendered it unusable . Humans could only make use of the interior mana—if they could access it .
“A peculiar characteristic of the exterior mana is that it blocks all access to the interior mana underneath . Under normal conditions, the interior mana, no matter how vast and powerful it might be, is completely inaccessible . At the same time, we also couldn’t simply break the magic crystal to release the interior mana . ”
Desir nodded in understanding . If the exterior mana broke, nothing held back the interior mana . As a result, it would rapidly dissipate into the air, like steam from an open kettle .
“However, this problem, and similar such problems, were resolved 50 years ago, when the Tower of Magic developed the ‘Enchant’ technique . ”
This topic evoked a bit of pride amongst those from the Tower of Magic, for good reason .
“In simple terms, a miniscule hole is formed in the exterior mana, by a technique developed by the Tower of Magic . The interior mana is directed to flow in a single direction, through this hole, and a formula is laid on top of the hole, to permit the crystal to be activated . ”
Indeed, once a method of utilizing the interior mana of the magic crystal had been established, magic crystals were no longer useless rocks, but critical resources . They enabled the development of a countless variety of magic equipment, leading to an explosive growth in magitek and magic industry: a Magical Revolution . It would not be far-fetched to claim that the Enchant technique was the discovery that defined that century .
“…and if we summarized the changes that followed this development…”
The lecturer began displaying his prepared material, in order to refresh the room’s mood . Panels activated by magic crystals displayed various images one by one .  Communication devices, powered by magic, that would enable people to talk across vast distances . An automatic lift that traveled up and down tall buildings in seconds . The intercontinental train with its magic engine .
“We are living in the height of the Magical Revolution, an era of grand magic . An era where everyone can experience the benefits of magic . ”
Desir nodded . Indeed, for now, life was prosperous and the population was growing . Shadow World instances were hundreds of times easier to clear, compared to before .
“Of course, at the same time, we must recognize that the Magical Revolution has created some unfavorable changes as well . The increased value of magic crystals has led to the creation of an outlaw group who attempt to illegally acquire magic crystals . This group, which calls themselves the ‘Outers,’ are a sinister organization of serious criminals . They have broken the Treaty of Bern and attempted several attacks on the Tower of Magic and the Western Kingdoms . ”
Pros and cons . The Enchant technique had made all of this possible .
“Now, how about a question? What is the name of the person who developed the Enchant technique? Hmm…The girl dozing off, over there . Romantica, was it?”
Romantica, whose head had been bobbing up and down as she slipped in and out of sleep, jumped out of her seat in a panic as she heard her name .
With an ungraceful clunk, the chair fell backwards behind her . Snickers echoed around the room . Desir, who had been sitting beside her, carefully fixed her chair before whispering quietly into her ears, “The answer is ‘Zod Exarion, Romantica . ’”
“It’s Zod Exarion!” She fumbled for the words .
“Correct,” replied the lecturer as he nodded in approval . “The one who occupies the position of Head of the Tower of Magic, Zod Exarion . You may sit .
“This story has taken a detour like rabbit lost in the mountains . In any case, the conclusion I want you all to keep in mind as I wrap up today, is that the Shadow World is like a double-edged sword . It continuously wants to eat away at humanity’s territories, but, at the same time, provides us with the magic crystals we need to advance our progress . ”
The dozing students began to rouse themselves one by one as everything appeared to wrap up .
“We’ll end the class here . Students that have questions can come forward, but otherwise, class dismissed . ”
The students stood up, and began streaming out the back door in a remarkably orderly fashion . Only a single student seemed to be moving against the crowd towards the lecturer—but, on closer inspection, there were in fact two students beside him; a student whose gender was difficult to discern , and the female student who had been dozing off earlier . The lecturer smiled inwardly at this sight .
The male student in the lead spoke . “I am Desir Arman . On this side is Romantica Eru, and on this side is Pram Schneizer . We’re all Single Rankers and in the same party . ”
“Oh? Single Rankers? This is quite the honor . ”
“No, no, it is an honor for us to be graced with your great lecture, Mr . Prelude . ”
“So, what is your question?”
“Not really a question, per se, but a request . ”
Prelude felt an ominous foreboding as he realized where this conversation was headed . He paused briefly, before speaking very delicately . “Are you perhaps requesting a sponsorship from the Tower of Magic?”
“It’s a similar request,” replied Desir nonchalantly .
Prelude’s face grew stiff . There were always students like this, who were willing to cross any line in order to get a sponsorship from the Tower of Magic . It was hardly surprising; the sponsorship was a great help to any burgeoning party . He replied, in a very even voice, “the request for sponsorship from the Tower of Magic is always reviewed fairly . I believe the window for applications for this year’s sponsorship has come to an end . ”
“Haha, well, that’s regrettable, but, truthfully, I wasn’t able to process one due to interference from another party . ”
“Interference from another party?” asked Prelude, puzzled .
“Yes; it’s because there’s too much pushback against my party . A three person party, mostly made up of commoners . We’re not viewed in a great light by others . ”
“Ahhh, so you were that party . The rumored party from the Beta Class that became Single Rankers . ” Prelude nodded in understanding . News of Desir’s party had spread far and wide . Their individual names, clearly, weren’t well known yet, but many rumors had begun to circulate about how great Hebrion’s ‘Super Rookies’ were . They had become quite the hot topic, and for them to be composed of students from the Beta Class…well, opposition was only natural . Still, rules were rules . Prelude continued, “unfortunately, the window for requests has already closed, and we’re currently in the process of deliberation . I’m sorry, but it might be best to hope for next year . ”
Desir, rather than give up as Prelude expected, tilted his head quizzically at the reply . “Hmm…” he paused, and then spoke again . “I must have misspoke . ”
“I’m not looking for a sponsorship, per se . To borrow your idiom, we’ve become lost like rabbits in a field, and this story has taken an unexpected turn . Is this saying correct?”
“It’s rabbits in a mountain,” corrected Prelude . “In that case,” he continued, “what are you asking of me?”
In response, Desir wordlessly revealed the document he had been carrying, and handed it to Prelude . It was a written request .
“What is this?” 
“It’s permissible for anyone to make a request for a party from Hebrion Academy with a reward . ”
“I’m not asking the question because I’m unaware . I am fully aware of this, as the Tower of Magic has made a request for a party from Hebrion Academy before . I am asking why you are handing me this . ”
Desir smiled as he opened the lid of a pen and handed it to Prelude .
“Make the request . ”
“Please make this request . ”
“I hope that you will make this request of us . ”
The three members of Desir’s party all spoke in unison .
Prelude shook his head, and closed the pen . “No, the problem wasn’t with how you’ve phrased it . ” He handed the pen and the paper back to Desir .
Desir refused to take them . “You must make this request . ”
“You are being completely unreasonable . ”
“Unreasonable?” Desir smiled innocently at Prelude . “Their objective is the 2nd tier magic crystal held within Aeurelli . It will happen July 7th at 3 a . m . ”
“What?” Prelude asked, confused yet again .
“I have information that the Outers will attack the Aeurelli Branch of the Tower of Magic exactly 10 hours from now,” Desir stated matter-of-factly .
They were called the ‘Outers’ because they stood outside the lines of law, and they revelled in the name . They were a sinister group, one that had already attacked the Tower of Magic and the Western Kingdoms several times .
“They’re after Ruigenell’s Tear . ”
Prelude blanched . “Wait, how could you know that—”
Desir cut him off very suddenly . “The important part is that I also know how to stop them . Please put in a request to the Tower of Magic to hire us . ”
The root of the incident occurred 3 days prior, on July 4th . Desir’s entire party had been promoted to Single Rankers during the promotion event . As part of the promotion, they also gained access to a new (substantially nicer) office . The interior walls were a calming white, and the space was filled with plush chairs and gleaming desks in a comforting brown, with a view of the beautiful emerald lake through the windows .
As usual, Desir’s party was spending their afternoon at this office, once their training had concluded, and it was here that Desir made a very important decision .
‘I should definitely marry a woman like Pram . ’  Of course, this decision certainly wouldn’t affect who he was actually going to marry in the future .
As usual, there was a mountainous pile of documents stacked on top of the desk . As Desir worked, he grabbed at the cookies laid out before him . They were flour cookies baked in butter, and although they didn’t look particularly appealing, they were surprisingly delicious . Pram had made them all by hand . Desir nodded in his mind in approval . ‘He’s pretty, with a good personality, and capable in the kitchen . He really isn’t lacking anything . ’ 
Pram had taken on all the housekeeping tasks for the party . Nobody had asked him to—it was something he had taken on of his own initiative . He was impressively good at them too; he did a fantastic job of cleaning, but his cooking skills were even better . And not just cookies—he brewed an excellent tea .
‘Really,’ Desir thought, ‘would a professional maid be able outperform him?’ His mind continued to wander . ‘How amazing would it be if Pram were a girl? No, wait, is he actually a girl? If that were the case…’ 
A voice suddenly interrupted Desir’s thoughts .
“Mr . Desir . ”
Aster0x’s Notes: Literally magic Powerpoint .  Pram is a trap confirmed . 
UwU *notices parchment* what’s this? Be on the lookout for our new Desir x Pram BL FF .  TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES REEEEEEE  Desir likes traps confirmed .